"Kokon chinbutsu shuran (Curios of all themes)" by ICHIYOSAI Kuniteru (Meiji Period)
"Curios of all themes", a set of three nishiki-e woodblocks by ICHIYOSAI Kuniteru, is an unusual work depicting the numerous exhibits at an exhibition in 1872. The foreground of the central picture is dominated by a salamander in a water tank and a golden shachi, a mythical fish that adorns the roofs of castles. Behind them is an exhaustive array of artworks including paintings, calligraphy, coral and gold items. In the picture on the right, the corridors are filled with stuffed specimens and skeletal preparations of animals, together with framed paintings. On the left are dyed works, lacquerware, musical instruments, and ceramics. This was how the items were displayed at Japan's very first exhibition.
This first exhibition opened on March 10, 1872, at the Taiseiden Hall of Yushima Seido, formerly a Confucian temple, under the auspices of the Ministry of Education's Museum Bureau. The 20-day exhibition was open from 9 am to 4 pm. The exhibits included works that had been shown the previous year at the institute that would later become the University of Tokyo. Since the exhibition was part of the preparations to partake in the World's Fair to be held in Vienna the following year, the organizer made a nationwide appeal for items. According to a draft of the exhibition catalog, the items numbered more than 600 and included artworks that belonged to the Imperial Family, together with other antique cultural assets and stuffed specimens of animals. In particular, the golden shachi from Nagoya, displayed in a glass case in the inner court of the Taiseiden Hall, attracted much attention. As TANAKA Yoshio, one of those involved in the preparation, later said, the crowds came in such numbers that they had to restrict admissions. In the end, they extended the exhibition for 10 days until April 30. A total of 150,000 people, around 3,000 a day, visited the Taiseiden Hall during the event.
The 1872 exhibition also marked the inauguration of the nation's first museum with a permanent exhibit. The rooms lined with glass showcases that were filled with exhibits must have left a fresh impression on the visitors at the time. This first exhibition in Japan organized by the government marked the birth of the Tokyo National Museum.
The official announcement of the Yushima Seido Exposition issued in 1872, and a ticket to the exhibition
The Taiseiden Hall of Yushima Seido